Imagine the rich scents of molasses, ginger, and nutmeg catching your nose through a lit candle, and then learning that you can spoon out the wax and use it as a lotion. Skinny Dip Candle, owned by Lindsey Keeley, offers this opportunity and many others through her candle experience. And since it’s the holiday season, isn’t that cozy experience a necessity?
Skinny Dip Candle was started in Missoula in 2004 by Karen Porter after she discovered a soy wax that burns at a low temperature, making it tolerable—even pleasurable—to our skin. It became Lindsey's company through a little marinading.
She was a sophomore at the University of Montana studying journalism when Karen was first looking for someone to take over the business. Lindsey’s father was Karen’s accountant and he brought the idea of taking over the company to Lindsey, knowing she was interested in skincare. She ultimately decided it wasn’t the right time in her life and Skinny Dip Candle went to Patty Hagglund, who retained Lindsey’s father as her accountant, too. When Patty was then looking to retire, Dad—again—brought the idea to Lindsey. It just so happened that Lindsey and her husband, Kevin, were looking to move back to Missoula from Bozeman to be closer to family. Whether it was “father knows best” or good timing, either way, Lindsey was home.
“So, I took it over from Patty in August 2020 and now I make candles from my garage,” said Lindsey. She jumped right in, facing the challenges of taking over a business during the height of the COVID pandemic. The first step she took was working with Andrew Houser, an illustrator out of Bozeman, to rebrand, thus creating a new look for the business that features a pinup-style woman on the labels. “But I found over the next year and a half that it wasn’t quite me. I do like to be funny and quirky, but the product itself was speaking to customers more as a self-care, affordable luxury item.” She again worked with Andrew and he came up with new label, which Lindsey really likes.
“I admit, when I was pregnant with my son I had a freak out moment. Is this really what I want to be doing? Is this me? And that’s when I decided to rebrand the second time because it wasn’t speaking to me. I reformulated my mission to make it feel more true to me and what I wanted to put out in the world,” said Lindsey.
Aside from finding the best way to express herself through her business, she also learned some things along the way.
“There are a lot of things that go into making a good candle. I just had no idea,” Lindsey said. For instance, glass vessels can explode if the proper wick isn’t used and it’s important that she watches the amount of fragrance she adds to her candles. Lindsey explained that household candles often contain around a 10% fragrance load, which can irritate the skin so her candles contain 2.5% fragrance to be gentle on the skin.
Lindsey makes the candles in a corner of her Missoula garage and she has a pretty efficient factory line set up. She begins by melting soy wax and then mixing it with a variety of soothing ingredients like avocado oil, shea butter, beeswax, and different fragrances are added depending on the candle to capture the season it’s designed for. Each batch is then poured into four aluminum tins. She sets the wicks and allows the mixture to cool. The wicks are then trimmed and small spoons are added to each tin for easy scooping. Lids and labels are placed and the candles are packed up to ship to individual buyers and wholesalers such as Bitterroot Floral and Missoula Makers Collective.
Lindsey sells candles with 35 different scents covering four collections: Basic, Essential Oils, Edible, and Seasonal. She makes single scent candles and she mixes scents together, which lets her creative side flourish.
To Lindsey, owning Skinny Dip Candle goes way beyond simply producing a product and turning a profit. One of her most important missions with Skinny Dip Candle is that her customers feel welcome, beautiful, and comfortable. She sees the privilege of owning the company as a way to help people and give back to the Missoula community she loves.
“I don’t like being hindered to just a product,” said Lindsey. “The product and myself need to have a purpose and a way to help people and make them feel joy in their own skin and who they are, as they are.”
Lindsey often donates candles to local organizations for fundraising events. “As a small business, I’m like, ‘Oh geez, can I afford to give it away? But I want to give it away. I think I’d be happy to just give my candles away.” Lindsey laughed.
She also makes sure that her materials are good for the planet. The wicks are a mix of cotton and paper which burn free of toxins. Once the candle burns completely down, the aluminum tins can be put in the recycle bin or brought back to Lindsey for reuse. You can also wash them out with soap and water and use them as a container for snacks or spices.
Speaking of spices, Lindsey is excited to share her winter collection with Missoula. “I would say the overall vibe of my winter collection is close and cozy. They’re all scents that I hope will bring up happy memories for people,” said Lindsey. She described Mountain Chalet as comparable to, “sitting in a log cabin nestled in snowy mountains while a little fire burns.” And Mulled Cider as “dipping a ladle into a crockpot full to the brim and simmering with red wine, orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and cloves.” With Frosted Gingersnap, Candy Cane, and A Breath of Fresh Air on the lineup as well, there is truly something for everyone.
Lindsey has so many ideas for the future of Skinny Dip Candle, but while she looks for the time to implement all of them into her busy life as business owner, wife, and mother to an infant son, she will continue making candles that provide both luxury and comfort to her customers and her community. Stop by to see her and her product in person at the Missoula Holiday MADE Fair on December 11 at the Adams Center.